Maisie cleared her throat, took a sip of water and separated her teeth from her inside lip. The audience waited, all facing forward, all watching her. What am I doing here? At the back of the hall a door opened and John slipped in quietly, almost tiptoeing so as not to disturb. As he ran his hand through his floppy white hair, moving it off his bespectacled face, their eyes met. He looks tired, Maisie worried. He nodded to her and gave her the thumbs up. It’s OK, you can do this. Her face relaxed. I can do this. He sat in the back, beside Lynn. She was knitting and lost in one plain, one pearl stitching. He nudged her, interrupting her line. She faced forward and to the stage for a second and gave Maisie a wink before resuming her repetitive task. She wasn’t being rude. Over the years she had grown nervous of crowds but she was determined to be there for her best pal and knitting calmed her. Go on, old girl, tell these fucking poshies a thing or two, she’d say. Maisie took great comfort in her pal’s attendance. If Lynn can sit here stitching, I can stand here talking! It was time. She was ready.
‘My name is Maisie. My husband calls me Mai and my kids call me Ma’sie but yous can call me what you like.’
here was a little laughter from the room. Maisie wasn’t sure if it was because of her opening line, bad grammar or accent. It didn’t matter, so she forged on.
‘Me first born Jeremy was conceived in violence and he died in violence, but while he was alive he was the light of my life. I’m here to talk about him and the things he taught me if yous will bear with me for just a little while.’
The students stopped shuffling, whispering, giggling. The fancy mahogany wood-clad hall disappeared, and Maisie was back in her small cottage in Tallaght. It was the morning of January 1st 1995 and Maisie’s sixteen-year-old boy Jeremy was waltzing his granny Bridie around the kitchen table . . .